From a recent review by the UK’s Law Commission, it might be that the UK is moving towards a prohibition of vehicles being remotely operated if the operator is overseas.
The UK government may prohibit the remote driving of vehicles from overseas, which includes the delivery of rental cars, based on recommendations from the Law Commission of England and Wales. Though this technology is usually only utilised in controlled environments, it is possible to remotely deliver rental cars, as well as remote use cases. Such applications would take place in public spaces, and this is what prompted the commission to advise regulation. Currently, there is no requirement for the driver of a vehicle to be physically present, highlighting the need for clearer laws.
The Law Commission proposed that remote driving from overseas should be prohibited until appropriate international agreements are established, citing difficulties in enforcement. It also suggested that companies should acquire special permission for remote driving in public spaces. The review stated that a remote driver should be held accountable for their actions, but not for faults beyond their control, such as connectivity issues. The public law commissioner, Nicholas Paines KC, emphasized the importance of strong regulation for remote driving before allowing it on UK roads. Simultaneously he recommended that the government address gaps in the law through existing powers and establish a lawful path for companies to use the technology, provided that their systems are safe.
The Law Commission's advice paper recommended that the UK government establish a full system of remote driving regulation in the longer term to address security threats and liability in case of accidents, while also allowing for technological innovation. Transport minister Jesse Norman recognized the potential of remote driving in providing new services and safety features but noted the importance of prioritizing safety. The commission had previously recommended that users of self-driving cars be granted immunity from a range of motoring offenses.
The Law Commission's proposal to regulate the use of remotely driven vehicles in the UK appears to be a step towards ensuring road safety and minimizing legal issues that could arise from accidents or security threats. However, the need for special permissions for remote driving in public spaces might slow down the adoption of this technology, and the lack of clarity around liability in the event of connectivity failures could create further legal complications.
The potential benefits of remote driving technology for the rental car industry and other applications in public spaces are potentially substantial, but it is essential to prioritize safety and accountability. The Law Commission's recommendation to establish a full system of remote driving regulation in the longer term, as well as granting immunity to users of self-driving cars from certain offenses, could provide more clarity and legal protection for companies and individuals involved in the use of this technology. Nonetheless, it is crucial to ensure that these regulations do not stifle innovation that has clear benefits while minimizing harm and ensuring fair business practices from innovation and the companies that seek to implement them.
Written by Adeleh Mohammadi,
RISE Mobility & Systems